Late October has been incredibly warm and sunny this year. Foggy mornings followed by sunshine almost every day, with temperatures in the mid-60s and 70s. This has been a welcome change from the cool cloudy weather we had in early October--but it makes me wonder if it "should" be this way? Is this a natural fluctuation or the result of climate change? I don't remember previous falls being this warm.
My garden is in transition now, as the last of the summer crops are phased out and the fall crops are starting to mature. I am also just starting to plant our winter crops.
Passion Fruit: We are now starting to reap the benefits of the highly productive passion vines in the yard. I spent a lot of time each day this summer, hand-pollinating the passion flowers to increase the harvest, and it's paying off! We have at least 70 beautiful green orbs on the vine now. They are supposed to ripen in place, and do that well in warmer climates, but here in the fog belt that process is slower so I have been picking them green and taking them inside to ripen on the kitchen counter. I place them in our fruit basket with some apples (which give off gases that help to ripen other fruits) and two weeks later we have edible passion fruit! As they ripen, the fruit turns from a shiny, green, smooth "egg" to a wrinkled dark purple/red "prune." The flesh inside the ripe fruit is composed of small juicy "sacs" that each enclose a crunchy seed. The juice tastes very tropical and floral, and is fairly tart. My 4 year old daughter and I can't get enough of them! We savored the first few that have ripened so far, and are looking forward to the coming bounty. There are ten or so in our fruit bowl now, tempting us.
Ground Cherries: We seem to be past the peak for ground cherry (Cape Gooseberry) production, but we are still getting about a cup a week of shelled fruit. They are tangy and delicious, particularly when allowed to fully ripen to a deep orange color. Sometimes little hands pick them a bit early, but they can continue to ripen somewhat on the counter top.
Meyer Lemons: This is the "barest" time of year for the lemon trees--although that's a relative statement since they produced an astounding 300 pounds of lemons this year (two trees, together)! I'm used to seeing each of the trees covered with about 60-80 pounds of lemons at a time, and now they are "down" to about 15-20 pounds each. We still have plenty for use in the kitchen and are saving a few armloads to bring to relatives for holiday meals. However, we are postponing our usual lemon sales to a local restaurant for another month or so, to wait until the new winter crop is mature.
Summer Annuals: Our cherry tomato plants are coming to the end of their season. The last few weeks we have only had about a cup a week. Our basil is also coming to the end of its season. Time to make pesto, and our last Capresi salads until next summer.
New Plantings: I planted about half a package of snow pea seeds in the middle of October, and they are now up to about 10" tall. There really hasn't been enough rain lately to help them thrive, and I've been bad about remembering to water. I need to keep a closer eye on that. I recently started to work on my fava bean planting, too. I put the fava bean seeds in to soak for three days. They will be ready for planting very soon. They are one of my children's favorite crops and they are looking forward to them this year.